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Changes to Illinois Divorce and Family Law in 2016

Posted on in Family Law

new divorce law, Naperville family law attorneyJanuary is always a busy month for divorce lawyers, and this year should be no different for Illinois attorneys. The beginning of each year is a popular time for divorce, and while attorneys, court officials, and other divorce experts in Illinois prepare for the surge, they also have another change to prepare for. For the first time in decades, the Illinois General Assembly passed a major revision of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, bringing with it many new changes to how divorce is handled in the state. While many of the updates are minor, such as changes in wording, a few of changes are quite substantial, and will change how Illinois courts and those going through divorce handle the divorce process. If you are divorcing in 2016 in Illinois, here is what you need to know.

Terminology Changes

As society’s views and opinions on marriage and divorce change, it is only natural that state laws will change as well. Many of the edits to divorce law in Illinois will do little to actually change any processes, but rather update the law’s terminology to reflect modern society. For example, in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage in the United States, Illinois divorce law now uses the term “spouse” versus “husband and wife.”

Additionally, child custody will now be known as “allocation of parenting time and responsibility.” Officials say this will help divorcing parents better handle the divorce process, and that the change reflects how co-parents parent in the modern world. Where it was once expected that mothers would retain primary custody and fathers would have visitation rights, today’s world of co-parenting is significantly different. Studies show that children of divorce fare far better when they have access to both parents, and Illinois lawmakers hope the changes in terminology will reflect that. “It is more of a reflection of how children are parented today,” says one Illinois attorney. “Both parents work and children’s schedules are busier. It is no longer a situation where the mother does most of the parenting. It is easier if both parents are involved.”

Lawmakers also hope that removing the words “custody” and “visitation” will help soften the blow to parents, especially the parent that gets a smaller amount of time with their children. While a judge may still determine how much time a child spends with each parent, removing harsh words like custody will help make the process easier and less confrontational. “It takes the winner-takes-all mentality out of it in child custody matters,” says an Illinois divorce attorney. As one expert put it: Grandparents visit, but parenting is for parents. “The goal was to get away from the term custody because that word elicits such a response.”

Changes to Co-Parenting

One of the majors changes to Illinois divorce law is how decisions will be made by co-parents. The responsibilities of raising children will now be divided into four categories; medical, education, religious, and extra-curricular. During the divorce process, parents will decide which of them will be responsible for making decisions within each of those categories, and any conflicts will be resolved by the court.

Another change to pay attention to is how relocation will now be handled. Illinois’ previous divorce law stated that divorced parents could move their children anywhere within the state without a court order, but a move across state lines would require approval, no matter the distance. Now, parents are allowed to move anywhere up to 25 miles without a court approval, and up to 50 miles in-state for those who currently live outside of the Chicago metropolitan area. For many families living on the Illinois border, this is a big change. Lawmakers say their goal with the change was to minimize potential conflict between co-parents.

Grounds for Divorce and Waiting Period Changes

Other changes included in the updated law cover grounds for divorce and the waiting periods couples face before they are able to proceed with a divorce. As of January 1, 2016, the only ground for divorce in Illinois is irreconcilable differences. Despite already being a no-fault state, those seeking divorce in Illinois could cite things like impotence, adultery, mental anguish, drug addiction, and cruelty as the reason they were seeking a divorce. Now, the only reason couples may cite is irreconcilable differences. Again, lawmakers say their goal was to minimize conflict during the divorce process. “If you get served with divorce papers that say you are guilty of adultery, right away you are on the defensive and you are coming out swinging,” says one expert.

Where couples once had to prove they lived separately for two years prior to initiating their divorce if they cited irreconcilable differences, the law now says couples may proceed immediately with their divorce if both parties agree. For those that do not agree, a period of living separate and apart for 6 months or longer will be accepted by the court as proof of irreconcilable differences.

Most of the changes were meant to reduce conflict during the divorce process, and to adjust outdated terminology to better reflect modern times. Lawmakers have yet to see any signs that indicate the changes are working, but anticipate proof as the year goes on. Next up, Illinois lawmakers will be reviewing how child support is handled in the state.

If you are facing a divorce, you need the help of a qualified Naperville divorce attorney. When you choose to work with the Pesce Law Group, you can rest easy knowing that our skilled team of attorneys will work tirelessly to ensure you get the best possible outcome. Our attorneys are able to handle even the most sensitive of divorce cases. Call 630-352-220 to schedule a consultation with an attorney today.


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